Oil, is perhaps the most precious natural resource on the planet and also one of the most controversial. It powers industry and the economies of many nations, yet the regions that contain the largest amounts are often the most unstable, and this instability often results from the influences of the very nations that purchase the oil.

It is a tenuous situation where buyer and seller are wary of one another and at times regard the other as a necessary evil. The money paid for the oil has made suppliers and handlers rich and powerful, but many on the outside of this privileged circle believe that greed has caused both sides to lose focus on what is most important for the people of their nations.

In the film Syriana viewers follow the paths of different people from various walks of life who for the most part do not know one another, yet are all linked by the same cause, oil.

There is the C.I.A. agent Bob Barnes (George Clooney), who spends time in locales such as Iran and Beirut eliminating threats to national security.

A lawyer, (Jeffrey Wright), who is caught in the middle as he attempts to find, and if need be eliminate damaging material that can prevent a pending merger between two oil companies.

There is the grieving energy analyst Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon), who deals with his loss by siding up with a powerful Prince, (Alexander Siddig), even at the alienation of his family.

There is also a displaced Pakistani worker who after losing his job when a Chinese company acquires the refinery where he worked, falls in with a group of radicals with a militant agenda.

The above is just a small sampling of the characters as there are numerous business, political, and Middle Eastern citizens who all play very prominent parts in the story.

The main focus of the film is not only to illustrate the connectivity between the characters but to show how politics and big business influence policy in oil rich nations and how through secret deals, political intrigue, and treachery policy in and towards the same oil producing nations are set into place and maintained.

While this is not much of a shock to people who follow the news, it is the way that director Stephen Gaghan uses ordinary and in some ways unremarkable people to tell the story and how it affects those who deal with oil.

Even those who are supposed the big players are often simply being played by forces outside their control in a world where reality and perceptions are often miles apart. The complex nature of the story is actually a model of simplicity as cause and effect, as well as the ability of big business to influence lawmakers is what drives the film.

The cast is strong especially Clooney and Siddig who make their characters sympathetic while at the same time captivating. The contrast of the men who are a Prince and an agent, yet whose destinies often cause them to walk along the same paths is amazing.

Syriana is an amazing film that is so complex in its simplicity. The basic message is very clear, yet the layers that must be uncovered like a tangled web of lies in telling the story is a far reaching journey that will shock and anger most viewers.

Some may find fault with a so called liberal agenda to the film, but politics aside, Syriana is a very captivating and entertaining film that makes you think.

4.5 stars out of 5